He may be, but I have no reason to believe Tourism junior minister Godfrey Kiwanda is an outrageous man.
He saw an opportunity in rolex — an urban dusty roadside snack of chapatti and basic fried egg — and blessed it with its own festival because Ugandan tourism would benefit. That was in 2016. Whatever the benefits since, I have no idea.
No matter, in a Cabinet full of “sleeping ministers” (as President Museveni branded them yet again on Thursday), Mr Kiwanda stands out for his youth, energy and zeal. It’s now emerging, however, that his youthful exuberance comes with serious cluelessness about the world.
He has swallowed the prejudices and stereotypes about women, or plus-size women for that matter. The minister is so provincial he sees nothing untoward in declaring, as he did last week, that henceforth Ugandan women with curves will be one of the tourism products the country offers. Women as products. Women as commodities. Giraffes, shoebill storks, mountains, caves, things …
In proclaiming that curvaceous women are good to look at, who was he speaking for? Possibly himself because he sounds like a man with a fetish for women’s curves. Possibly he was channelling Ugandan men, many of whom, popular lore has it, like them in full figure.
As many have noted, so, after looking at the women, presumably assembled in some human zoo, what next?
The assumption must be that a vast majority of the (foreign) tourists will be men. Therefore, sexual desire should arise. And tourism and sex are not things far apart, hence talk of sexual tourism. Our own minister is trying to position us accordingly. However, he should remember that those male (and a few female) tourists might prefer a differently shaped woman.
This curves drive is so brazen and annoying in its unreasonableness, the head hurts.
Think again. This stuff is coming from a minister serving in the NRM government, a government that says it has done a lot to see women in school and in the public sphere such as in politics. From a minister serving in a government that passes laws to ensure women keep their modesty and yet now also wants the same women to flaunt their curves.
Given that not many Ugandans are paying top dollar to tour here, the minister is thinking of foreigners. He forgets that some of those foreigners he is targeting may find his enterprise so offensive they will stay away.
Minister Kiwanda has in all probability not heard of Sara(h) Baartman or if he has, the story means nothing. Has this man not heard of the various dubious skulls experiments? If he has, it all means nothing to him. That is sad.
There is something close to innocence in this minister’s provincial ignorance. That is why someone should take pity, sit him down and educate him. Ditto those he planned with the demented campaign he unveiled on Tuesday, February 5.
The minister has since tried to distance himself from the campaign, saying it was the project of a private citizen, Ms Ann Mungoma. President Museveni said as much on Thursday. Both leaders said that Miss Curvy is just another beauty pageant like Miss Uganda. It is not. By Mr Kiwanda, a government minister, launching the pageant (read tourism product) and speaking highly and leeringly of it, he gave Miss Curvy the imprimatur of the Government of the Republic of Uganda.
But let me give the final thought to Moses Rudende, who wrote on Twitter: “I think the issue isn’t with having the Miss Curvy pageant. The issue is with objectifying the women and making them a tourist attraction, which is basically making them a commodity. Please, celebrate full figured women, by all means! Just don’t make them commodities.”
Bernard Tabaire is a media trainer and commentator on public affairs based in Kampala.